How does THC affect Alzheimer's?
Researchers have now found that an active compound in marijuana promotes the removal of toxic clumps of amyloid beta proteins from the brain. These deposits are believed to be responsible for the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
In their current investigation, the scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that so-called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) promotes the removal of toxic lumps in the brain. In this way, the progress of Alzheimer's can be slowed down or even stopped. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Aging and Mechanisms of Disease".
Cannabinoids have a protective effect
The current finding supports the results of previous studies, which have already found evidence of the protective effects of cannabinoids, including THC, on patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Although previous studies have shown that cannabinoids have a neuroprotective effect on Alzheimer's symptoms, the current study provides first evidence that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells, explains study author David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Other uses of THC
In their investigation, Schubert and his colleagues tested the effects of THC on human neurons that were grown in the laboratory and simulate the effects of Alzheimer's disease. The THC compound is responsible for most of the psychological effects of marijuana. These include the pain-relieving properties, which can be helpful, for example, in the treatment of HIV and chemotherapy. For example, THC can also be used for chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a stroke.
How does the connection work in the body?
In fact, THC appears to be such an amazing medicinal ingredient that researchers are working to breed genetically modified yeasts that can produce the ingredient much more efficiently than synthetic methods. The compound works by getting into the bloodstream from the lungs, where it attaches to two types of receptors, cannabinoid receptor (CB) 1 and 2. These receptors occur on cell surfaces throughout the body, the doctors explain. In the brain, these receptors are most concentrated in neurons that are associated with pleasure, memory, thinking, coordination, and time perception.
THC helps the aging brain
Research in recent years has increasingly indicated that binding to these receptors could have a positive effect on aging brains as it helps the body eliminate the toxic accumulations of beta-amyloid.
What causes Alzheimer's?
So far it remains unclear what causes Alzheimer's disease, but it is believed that the disease results from an accumulation of two types of lesions: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that easily clumps together. The scientists explain that the so-called neurofibrillary tangles are caused by defective tau proteins that build up into a thick, insoluble mass in the neurons.
New approach to treating Alzheimer's in sight?
It's not clear why the lesions appear in the brain, but studies have linked inflammation in the brain tissue to plaque proliferation and neurofibrillary tangles. So if the researchers find something that relieves inflammation in the brain while encouraging the body to get rid of these lesions, this could be a first approach to effective treatment for Alzheimer's. Inflammation in the brain is a major part of the damage associated with Alzheimer's disease, but it has always been thought that this response comes from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves, says study author Antonio Currais from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
There might already be a suitable drug
When the experts were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to beta-amyloid, it quickly became clear that THC has compounds similar to those that neurons normally form themselves and that play an important role in protecting cells from the Play die off. There is even a drug candidate called J147 that appears to have the same effects as THC. Perhaps this drug could enable the effective treatment of Alzheimer's in the future. (as)